Selecting Technology Tools for Life Beyond the Class

By Alice Bedard-Voorhees, Guest Contributor

Relative to the TCC 2012 conference theme, I would share this experience in choosing applications for a particular online class.

This past fall provided the opportunity to teach a required online class for English Second Language and adult basic and secondary educators. I wanted to move people into using some tools that could increase engagement, ones that could also be used beyond the class. Certain aspects of the course came to mind: a collaborative exercise formerly transacted on a wiki, student-shared bookmarks, and a writing-heavy orientation in the course. Additionally, the professional development experiences for this group had formerly been  through non-credit, face-to-face workshops and the classes they taught/facilitated were in face-to-face venues.

Those considerations shaped choices for technology and interactions for this course. I chose Google Docs over the wiki because Google Docs could be a tool that could be used by their Adult Ed students at a future date, and learning to use Google Docs could be a resume item for the Adult Ed students as well. I made their use of the doc as easy as possible: I put it up there and gave them the link from the online classroom, so they could get to it immediately.

While social bookmarking is a tool for media literacy and either Delicious or Diigo seemed obvious choices, the ability to highlight and add sticky note passages and pages on Diigo pages made it a tool that the adult educators could also use with students in their classes for literacy and research-and-writing. For social bookmarking, I created a class account and gave them the steps they needed to create an account and request to join the group.

Last, the synchronous meeting tool (Blackboard Collaborate) would be a way for instructors to having meetings with students from wherever each person had internet connection, adding flexibility to a college sites that cover 12,000 square miles. The instructors in this course were asked to present in this tool as well, and initially expressed a lot anxiety about using Blackboard Collaborate. After having a training session and presenting at a later date, some participants said, “Why didn’t we use Collaborate earlier in the term?”

Making it easy for students to use the tools can make all the difference in launching the use as part of the learning rather than having it be a great distraction. Secondly, as a result of the very positive response to the live sessions with this group, I am now making it a point to offer a voluntary brief synchronous session each week in my other classes for questions about content or exploration of the tool itself.

Editors note:
Alice Bedard-Voorhees maintains the Constant Learning Org blog found at:

Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post.

  • What technology tools do you use for your classes?
  • How did you arrive at this decision?


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